It is Tuesday night once again, so the time has come for me to cast my weekly MaxwellPundit ballot, in which I identify the five players who appear to me to have distinguished themselves as the most outstanding in college football.
The field is beginning to narrow somewhat, as Adrian Peterson has been lost to injury and Garrett Wolfe (in whom I was never a believer) vanished from view after a poor performance. Moreover, Tennessee's Erik Ainge and Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson were idle, so they were put out of mind by being out of sight. This week, therefore, the star performers seem to me to be these:
Yes, him again!
1. Troy Smith (Ohio State): The Buckeyes' signal-caller had a typical day at the office in East Lansing on Saturday, connecting on 15 of his 22 passes for 234 yards, a pair of touchdowns, and no picks. Smith, like the team he leads, is on auto-pilot at this juncture, as the Ohio State Q.B. has steered the Cadillac Escalade that is the nation's No. 1 team into the fast lane, put the vehicle on cruise control with a casual flick of the wrist, and commenced to gliding down the highway while making the extraordinary appear absolutely effortless.
2. Ian Johnson (Boise State): The Broncos' primary offensive weapon put on quite a show on Sunday evening, turning his 27 carries into 192 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson's latest impressive performance brought his season-long totals to 998 yards and 14 T.D.s, keeping his average over seven yards per carry. He is the workhorse of the B.S.U. offense and he quite probably qualifies as Division I-A's most underappreciated player.
It takes a lot for a player to earn my respect in the midst of that much orange and blue. (Photograph from K.T.V.B.)
3. James Laurinaitis (Ohio State): The Buckeyes' leading tackler continues to wreak havoc upon opposing offenses, as his 59 stops include 29 solo tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and a trio of sacks. When not busy putting opposing players on the ground, Laurinaitis has put his time to good use by breaking up a pass, forcing a pair of fumbles, and returning four picks for 51 yards. He once again was O.S.U.'s defensive leader against Michigan State, tallying nine tackles and registering a sack that cost the Spartans 16 yards.
4. LaMarr Woodley (Michigan): Credit goes out to Burnt Orange Nation for drawing my attention to the Wolverine defensive end. Woodley's 16 solo tackles tell only a part of the story, as his 10 tackles for loss---seven of which were sacks---have cost the opposition almost a full football field, depriving the other team of a cumulative 94 yards of lost real estate. His two fumble recoveries were advanced an additional 54 yards, as well. Against Penn State, his five tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, and one forced fumble demonstrated just how disruptive Woodley can be, as the Nittany Lions were held in check until the closing moments of the contest.
Boilermaker, meet the Playmaker. (Photograph from The Michigan Daily.)
5. Patrick Willis (Ole Miss): The Rebel linebacker is the leading tackler in the Southeastern Conference, having made 48 solo stops, offered 25 assists, and tacked on a sack to bring his weekly average to 10.4 tackles per game. The Mississippi defense has been on the field for 481 plays, of which 20 have gone for touchdowns against the Rebs, so Willis has had a hand in nearly one out of every six tackles registered by Ole Miss . . . and one out of every 10 plays run against the squad from Oxford has ended with Willis wrestling the ballcarrier to the ground all by his lonesome. You simply can't ignore that kind of dominance.
Those are my top five players in college football; let me know if you think I got 'em right or if you believe I missed the boat.